Last month, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued its final rule updating its recordkeeping regulations for many employers. Among the provisions, employers within the scope of this new rule will be required to electronically submit injury and illness data directly to OSHA on an annual basis, which will become publicly available thereafter. Also included in the rule is new anti-retaliation language that bars employers from retaliating against employees who report injuries and illnesses, and requires employers have a reasonable procedure for reporting work-related injuries that does not discourage or deter employees from reporting. The new anti-retaliation measures are set to go into effect on Aug. 10, 2016, while the new electronic recordkeeping requirements go into effect on Jan. 1, 2017.
This represents a significant change, as in the past employers covered by OSHA’s recordkeeping guidelines collected and maintained this injury and illness information internally. In general, OSHA only obtained access to this information as part of an inspection or specific written requests. Furthermore, OSHA intends to make this information publicly available.
OSHA has defended the new ruling, stating that making these data publicly available will “nudge” employers into making safety a priority. The logic behind this argument is that the availability of these data will allow prospective employees to see which establishments have the lowest workplace injury rates; as a result, companies vying for top talent will be further encouraged to improve their safety practices. Additionally, OSHA hopes that this information will allow employers to gauge their health and safety performance against industry leaders.
Regarding this change, Dr. David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA, had the following to say in a statement: “Since high injury rates are a sign of poor management, no employer wants to be seen publicly as operating a dangerous workplace. Our new reporting requirements will ‘nudge’ employers to prevent worker injuries and illnesses to demonstrate to investors, job seekers, customers and the public that they operate safe and well-managed facilities. Access to injury data will also help OSHA better target our compliance assistance and enforcement resources at establishments where workers are at greatest risk, and enable ‘big data’ researchers to apply their skills to making workplaces safer.”
The new ruling has been met with backlash by some in the industry who maintain that the updated regulations only increase bureaucracy without any guarantee of improving safety. The new requirement also raises concerns about protection of worker privacy, as well as the protection of proprietary information. While OSHA maintains that it will use software to remove identifying information and retain anonymity of the data, the effectiveness of this software is yet to be tested. This is part of a larger concern that OSHA has vastly underestimated the time and monetary cost of implementing these changes, and has generated serious doubt that the system will be fully functional and capable of handling such a large influx of information by next year. Legal challenges to the new ruling are expected by employers and employer groups.
OSHA Recordkeeping Requirements – Staying Compliant:
If you’re an employer subject to OSHA’s recordkeeping regulations, here are several steps you can take now to comply with the new rules and limit your citation liability:
- Begin developing a process NOW for collecting 300, 300A, and 301 Forms electronically to meet the new electronic recordkeeping requirements beginning next year (note that employers with less than 250 employees only need the 300A Form), if it is not being done already.
- Make sure to post the revised OSHA poster to ensure compliance with the new informational requirements (you can find it here).
- Review your current reporting procedures to ensure that these programs are reasonable and do not discourage or deter an employee from reporting a workplace injury or illness.
Looking For Help?
At Mobile Inspection, online recordkeeping is our specialty. Implementing an electronic inspection and recordkeeping program can be daunting – but we’re here to help! With Mobile Inspection, all of your data is automatically stored in the cloud and can be accessed from any device, anywhere. An electronic system not only ensures that your data is safe and accessible, but also saves time, money, and hassle by replacing your paper forms. Contact us today to learn more, or sign up for a free 30 day trial.